Runnin' Bulldogs Hold First Spring Scrimmage Tuesday Afternoon -—Official Web Site of Gardner-Webb Athletics
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Matt McAlvin and Shaquille Riddick battle for position during Tuesday's scrimmage. Riddick returned an interception for a score.
Courtesy: Marc Rabb
Runnin' Bulldogs Hold First Spring Scrimmage Tuesday Afternoon
Courtesy: Gardner-Webb
          Release: March 26, 2013
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BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb ran through an 80-play scrimmage Tuesday afternoon on the campus practice fields, its first of the spring.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs are in the midst of a spirited spring practice season under new head coach Carroll McCray, who was hired in late January to return to his alma mater.

New offensive and defensive systems are being installed, as well as an improved sense of tempo between the whistles and to and from the sidelines between plays. Gardner-Webb will operate out of a multiple spread scheme offensively, and plans for a high tempo approach are being implemented this spring.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs welcome back several key weapons offensively. Quarterback Lucas Beatty is back after completing 215-of-334 passes for 2,483 yards and 12 scores – and a league-best average of 225.7 yards per game.

Top targets Kenny Cook (48 catches, 666 yards, 7 TD), Deonte Swinton (41 catches, 467 yards) and Seth Cranfill (37 catches, 366 yards, 2 TD) return as well, along with running backs Juanne Blount (572 yards, 6 TD), Demetrius Fairley (5-11, 205, So.) and J.J. Hubbard (150 yards, 2 TD). Versatile Hudson Smith (RSr.), speedy veteran Stanley Fleurant (6-3, 190, RSo.) and highly-touted newcomer Mike Estes (RFr.) will also provide firepower, as will returners Richard Jules and DeMarcus White.

Speedster Garrett Pratt (6-1, 185, Fr.) joined the team in January after prepping at Fork Union, and could also make a major dent in the rotation. Another redshirt freshman, Jordan Jones, has the size (6-4, 212) to be an impact newcomer as well.

Fullback Earnest Harmon (5-10, 230, RJr.) also returns with starting experience.

The Runnin’ Bulldogs welcome back two starters on the offensive line in David McConnell (6-5, 306, RJr.) and Dylan Hopper (6-4, 300, So.). Matt McAlvin (6-5, 290, RSo.), Ashanti McPhee (6-3, 304, RSo.) and veteran Jeff Harris (6-2, 292, RSr.) will compete for starting positions this spring along with a host of young linemen.

Defensively, Gardner-Webb will work from a 3-4, the first time since the 2004 season that the Runnin’ Bulldogs have gone with that base formation.

The defensive line remains a strong position group for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, with depth and experience. Matt Goods (6-2, 265, RSr.) and O.J. Mau (6-2, 285, So.) appear ready to anchor the nose guard spot, with Shaquille Riddick (6-7, 240, Jr.), Preston Pemasa (6-2, 260, Sr.), Tyler Hough-Jenkins (6-4, 280, RJr.), Zach Shelton (6-1, 250, RSr.) and Arlando Griffin (6-4, 225, RFr.) among a deep group vying for snaps at end. Newcomer Philip Fata (6-3, 290, So.) will also make a push at nose guard this spring.

Linebacker Tanner Burch (6-3, 245, Jr.) is joined by an athletic and eager group of youngsters at the position. Hard-hitting Bradley Taylor (6-1, 227, Jr.) also returns after starting all of the 2012 season. The team’s talented sophomore class at linebacker – Azziz Higgins (6-2, 235, So.), Chad Geter (6-2, 230, So.), Jebrai Regan (6-2, 230, So.) and Michael Cunningham (6-1, 215, So.) should fit perfectly into Gardner-Webb’s new scheme defensively. Safety Donald Buie III (6-0, 185, Jr.) moved to outside linebacker prior to spring practice, and has performed well so far.

Another position move could have strong, positive implications. All-Big South defensive end Maurice Dickson (6-4, 260, Sr.), one of the league’s top pass rushers the past two seasons, moved to linebacker with the new staff’s arrival, and has taken quickly to his new position.

The secondary returns four players with starting experience at corner in Keon Williams (6-0, 170, Sr.), Drew White (5-9, 172, Sr.), Tiko Thompson (5-8, 150, So.) and Ivan Toomer (6-1, 200, RSo.). January transfer Charleston Higginbotham (6-0, 181, Jr.) should also factor in at the position, along with speedy Brandaun Addison (6-0, 180, RFr.) and rangy Jonathan Sherrill (6-3, 205, So.).

Both Addison and Sherrill could find themselves at safety by August, along with Lonnie Johnson (5-10, 220, RSr.), Brandon Swayze (6-2, 190, So.) and Steven Cristobal (6-0, 190, RJr.).

Gardner-Webb will break the rest of this week for Easter and will return to the practice fields next week. The team’s annual spring game is set for Saturday, April 13, with a time to be determined.



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